Faculty of Education and Arts

CERG research interests

Critical cultural analysis

The analysis of cultural and national identities and histories, nationalisms, cosmopolitanisms, globalisations, representations of otherness, the civilisational sociology of indigenous politics, forms of protest and the formation and fate of social democratic and radical movements, ethical and socio-political cultural (and intercultural) conceptions, and the nature/culture divide. Significant emphasis is placed on tracing the transformations of these issues over time. Researchers engaging with these kinds of issues employ various approaches from literature and film analysis, psychoanalysis, discourse analysis, sociological and ethnographic analysis, historical research, to philosophy.

Projects and research:

Julie Fletcher: Witnessing Tibet: Life narrative as testimony in the Tibetan diaspora

Brief overview: Julie Fletcher's PhD thesis was completed within the School of Communication and Creative Arts, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University, in 2007. This thesis examined the emergence and development of a range of testimonial texts and practices within the Tibetan refugee community since 1959. Based upon textual analysis and fieldwork within the Tibetan community in exile in Dharamsala, Northern India, the thesis considered the ways in which these narrative practices work to reclaim and rebuild Tibetan 'world' in exile, and constitute an increasingly important form of transnational political action for Tibetan refugees as part of the Tibetan independence movement. Julie is currently revising her PhD thesis for publication. She is updating and expanding the work to include consideration of anti-colonial protest activity within Tibet across and since 2008, and related transnational witnessing and testimonial activity in the diaspora.

Jane Mummery: Radical Democracy in the 21st Century

Brief overview: The 21st century sees the idea and practice of democracy facing significant challenges in the form of disengaged citizens, the failure of existing democratic institutions to satisfy the classical benchmarks of democracy, economic and cultural globalisations, the global increase in fundamentalisms and the current global ecological and environmental crisis. Such challenges have sparked a renewed radicalising engagement with democratic theory and politics. These are the issues underpinning Jane Mummery's next book. Contracted by Acumen/McGill-Queen's University Press, this book will critically explore the radicalising movement in democratic thought, examining its theoretical underpinnings, its instantiations within and interconnections with post-foundationalist thought, and, most importantly, its  resources for dealing effectively with the various challenges mentioned above.

Jeremy Smith: Political Imaginaries (a special issue of Critical Horizons: A Journal of Philosophy and Social Theory forthcoming 13.1, 2012)

Brief overview: The notion of 'social imaginaries' is becoming increasingly important in contemporary social theory, but the elaboration of 'political imaginaries', so conceived, remains an unfinished yet promising off-shoot to recent trends in post-68 radical thought. This special issue of Critical Horizons begins to address this gap by reconsidering the work of Claude Lefort and Cornelius Castoriadis. In part, consideration of political imaginaries subsequent to Lefort's work on democracy and the political has been forestalled due to the neglect of the problematics of politics. Even though the 'cultural turn' has made an impact in political theory, this has often happened at the expense of what Hannah Arendt would call 'politics proper'. Political thought since the 1980s has to a large extent foregrounded cultural issues concerning identity, values and integration. The politics of identity understood in terms of culture has, to a large degree, overshadowed questions of power, the economy, patterns of exploitation etc. This special issue seeks to revive lines of enquiry into political imaginaries, whilst remaining mindful of the complex and irreducible relationship of power, culture and politics in the domains of citizenship, democracy and political myth.

Xiaoli Jiang: Teaching in the West

Brief overview: The project will investigate issues of Asian migrants teaching in Australia. It will explore the impact of cultural differences of the teachers on their teaching approaches and outcomes as well as the challenges that the differences have created. Analysis of the difficulties from social cultural perspectives will be provided. Strategies to overcome cultural and self-esteem barriers will be discussed. This book is intended to be written in both English and Chinese with an expectation of considerable interest from both countries. (Book Manuscript)

Dr Jacqueline Wilson: Ambient Hate: Social Apathy, Racist Graffiti, and Schoolchildren

Brief overview: The author examines and presents a number of images of racist graffiti photographed by her at various locations in the rural city in which she lives. These renderings form part of a recent campaign of racial vilification that resulted in virulent hate-writings being prominently displayed in public places especially in the environs of, or en route to, several primary and secondary schools. The author identifies the need for research to determine the effect of such racist displays on schoolchildren. She also questions local authorities' commitment to the timely removal of such graffiti, given that much of it was extant for many weeks or even months before being removed. The ambience in which expressions of hate are considered an unremarkable aspect of a child's social environment is examined. Especially as they occur at a time when crimes of violence apparently targeting South-Asian students have raised concerns about the degree, type and prevalence of racism in Australian society. As Australia experiences renewed influxes of migrant and refugee groups, plus increasing numbers of people resident on temporary visas while studying, many municipalities, rural and urban, are seeing their demographic make-up undergo changes amounting, in some cases, to wholesale transformation. Such changes can lead to or exacerbate social tensions that can, in turn, all too readily be subsumed into the social matrix of the schoolyard.

Australian heritage and folklore studies

This area encompasses the substantial analysis of Australian history, culture and folklore with a strong orientation towards indigenous issues and the shaping of colonial Australian culture and society. Research involves traditional historical empirical research, anthropological and cultural analysis, research into Australian film and literature as well as indigenous studies. Researchers are also engaged in building strong links to private and public sector organizations such as Sovereign Hill, the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery and the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative.

Projects and research:

Lesley Speed: Make us smile: Australian comedy film's early peak in the 1930s

Brief overview: This project is within Film Studies, and also has links to the group's research interest areas of Critical Cultural Analysis and Australian Heritage and Folklore Studies. The project examines Australian feature-length comedy films produced from 1931 to 1940, the first decade of talking films produced in this country. It expands knowledge of the genre's significance in Australian cinema, exploring and qualifying the notion that recent decades of local screen comedy owe little to developments before World War Two. The project argues that the little recognition that has been granted to 1930s Australian comedy films reflects nationalist prejudices, which frequently denigrate comedy as a low or lightweight genre, when in fact this genre draws positive attention to and challenges ideas of cultural value. Funding organisations: National Film and Sound Archive (2010 Scholar in Residence); University of Ballarat (Research Infrastructure Block Grant, School of BSSH Research Grant, Early Career Research Grant).

Anne Beggs-Sunter: Museum Representations of Democracy

Brief overview: Arising from her PhD research, Anne takes a continuing interest in the way museums have presented exhibitions that interpret the history of democratic political movements throughout history, with a particular focus on the developing Eureka Centre at the Ballarat Eureka Stockade Park. The changing representations of the Eureka flag is central to her research. She collaborates with museum and educational staff to examine fruitful ways of engaging students at all levels in discussion of the meaning of democracy.

Dr David Waldron: Snarls from the Tea Tree: A History of Big Cat Scares in South Eastern Victoria

Brief overview: This project is a study in folklore and local history, with departures into environmental studies, relating to the belief that rural Australia is home to large cat like predators which feed on stock and are the genesis to numerous examples of Panther, Puma and Tiger folklore. A key focus of this study is the historical and social context to panics pertaining to the loss of stock and their relationship to environmental problems and the legacy of introduced species such as feral dogs, cats and pigs. A central theme of this project is the pattern of responses to these panics which has often ended in the tragic loss of native wildlife such as Dingos, Wedgetailed Eagles and, of course, Tasmania's Thylacine. A second component examining the environmental studies component and the agricultural issues relating to the loss of stock is being managed by naturalist Simon Townsend. He will also be investigating the specifics of biological claims pertaining to dead stock and wildlife in their environmental context. The research is based primarily on media analysis through Australian papers and government reports looking at the development of origin myths, factors shaping the folklore and its development and the relationship between the media and popular culture.

Dr Janice Newton: Searching for Mullawalla: Ballarat's last 'King Billy'

This project involves disentangling primary sources in relation to various King Billys of the Ballarat region and later European reminiscences about them. The aim is to integrate this with contextual histories on the region and times in order to recreate a possible biography of the King Billy who was buried in Ballarat in 1896 as the 'last of his tribe'. Escaping bureaucratic
documentation in censuses and through institutions, his re-created life story offers the potential for new insights into Aboriginal life in the first 60 years of Victorian colonial history and allows reflection on processes of memory and essentialism.

Literary and film studies

In a contemporary world that is excessively textual - saturated as it is by images, narratives and representations of all kinds - a critical focus on text as a medium for exploring human thought and emotion, as well as a range of social concerns and ideological operations, is vital. Drawing on a wide range of techniques for the analysis of literary and filmic texts, researchers in this area promote the importance and value of strong cultural literacy.

Projects and research:

Lesley Speed: Make us smile: Australian comedy film's early peak in the 1930s

Brief overview: This project is within film studies, and also has links to the group's research interest areas of Critical Cultural Analysis and Australian Heritage and Folklore Studies. The project examines Australian feature-length comedy films produced from 1931 to 1940, the first decade of talking films produced in this country. It expands knowledge of the genre's significance in Australian cinema, exploring and qualifying the notion that recent decades of local screen comedy owe little to developments before World War Two. The project argues that the little recognition that has been granted to 1930s Australian comedy films reflects nationalist prejudices, which frequently denigrate comedy as a low or lightweight genre, when in fact this genre draws positive attention to and challenges ideas of cultural value. Funding organisations: National Film and Sound Archive (2010 Scholar in Residence); University of Ballarat (Research Infrastructure Block Grant, School of BSSH Research Grant, Early Career Research Grant).

Dr Meg Tasker: Anglo-Australian Writers in the Periodical Press in the 1890s and early 20th Century

Brief overview: This project is located within Literary Studies, and also has links to the group's research interest areas of Critical Cultural Analysis and Australian Heritage and Folklore Studies. This is a long term study building on primary research undertaken since 2003 under the auspices of an ARC Large Project Discovery Grant, for which Dr. Tasker was sole Chief Investigator and Dr. Lucy Sussex was employed as Research Associate. Tasker and Sussex continue to collaborate on conference papers and publications drawing on this material, and are working on a book length study which will be both scholarly and of general interest, about Australians writing in London in the 1890s. Broadly, the project explores issues of cultural identity for individuals and groups whose histories and affiliations were with both Great Britain and the Austral(as)ian colonies, how their networks and transnational careers were shaped, and how they represented 'Australia' in the periodical press. It questions the radical/nationalist-versus-conservative/cosmopolitan binary opposition which was promoted in the 1890s by the Sydney Bulletin and used by 20th century literary and cultural historians.

Marian Chivers: Warrior Women - Hit or Myth?

Brief overview: Through the close analysis of a set of texts drawn from popular culture, news media, government reports and (where possible) first hand accounts, this thesis examines the relationship between representations of warrior women in popular culture and representations and the experiences of actual warrior women in contemporary times. The thesis will consider which representations within popular culture (e.g. in novels, films, comics and possibly games) most accurately reflect the experiences and identities of warrior women in real life. The thesis also considers what constitutes a warrior woman and what evidence there is to suggest that representations of warrior women in contemporary times are informed by, or reflect, influential conceptions of subjectivity and gender proffered by feminist theorists such as Judith Butler, Yvonne Tasker and others (Current project for Master of Arts in Literature).

Dr Linda Wight: Men, masculinities, and physical disability in science fiction

This series of journal articles aims to analyse how men with physical disabilities are portrayed in SF novels and short stories. Hegemonic masculinity is heavily invested in the apparently whole, healthy, and inviolable male body. Building upon Dr Wight's PhD thesis, 'Talking About Men: Conversations About Masculinities in Recent Science Fiction' and drawing on disability studies, masculinities studies and science fiction criticism, this project aims to explore how science fiction writers depict the impact of physical disability on masculine identities. The project also aims to explore the potential for science fiction to question traditional notions of masculinity and disability.